Brandt Smith is the co-founder of Industrial Energy Audit Services, an energy consulting firm that helps customers reduce their energy consumption and slash their energy spending. He has more than 2 decades of industry experience, is certified by the Association of Energy Engineers (AEE) as a Certified Energy Auditor (CEA) and has degrees in both business and engineering technology.
Unlike most energy consultants, Brandt doesn’t focus on reducing carbon footprints, emission reductions or other environmental issues. His primary focus is on business issues: profits, ROI and risk. While the environmental benefits are important, profits, ROI and risk are the driving factors when making business decisions.
Industrial Energy Audit Services focuses on industrial, institutional, government and large commercial customers. The company offers its customers an unbiased assessment of their facility that is guaranteed to reduce spending, often by 20% or more. Industrial Energy Audit Services’ recommendations have a high ROI with minimal risk since 80%+ pay for themselves in less than 1 year.
What are you working on right now?
Our primary focus is building our energy consulting business. This takes up the lion’s share of our time and attention and is our biggest challenge.
Where did the idea for Industrial Energy Audit Services come from?
My wife and I were looking for a service or product that capitalized on my engineering/power distribution expertise and that would also put us in front of a growing trend. We were watching the alternative energy market and many of the things we saw just didn’t make sense. Basically, the industry costs too much to be independently viable. Also, while we personally want to minimize the waste we generate, we definitely are not environmentalists. We listen to so many people spout platitudes like “carbon footprint” and “sustainable”–all without a clear idea of what these words truly mean or how they impact lives in the real world.
We’d been hearing about energy audits and this looked like a good fit, especially when we looked at the small industrial niche. Most of our competition was focusing on residential and light commercial customers. Unlike us, they just didn’t have the ability to assess an industrial facility. The few competitors that did focus on industrial customers wanted to work on mega projects and staff the project with 10+ specialists. This left the small manufacturer or industrial customer out in the cold.
What does your typical day look like?
Wow, that depends on the week. When I am in the middle of an audit, I am pretty much focused on the audit. Sometimes I’m on site going through their equipment. Sometimes I’m analyzing data, doing calculations, making my spreadsheet work the way I want it to, etc. It’s pretty time consuming and doesn’t leave much time for anything else.
When we don’t have an audit, we are working to build our business. I spend time improving our website, marketing, improving our audit tools, etc.
One area I’m working on is to market the company even when I’m busy with an audit. These are daily activities that incrementally grow our business and bring in prospects so that we no longer have to be in feast or famine mode.
How do you bring ideas to life?
First I resist the idea. Then I pout and drag my heels. When I finally accept the idea, I admit my wife was right all along.
Sorry, bad joke. I’ve learned to take a deep breath and ask “how do we make this work?” “How can this help us?” Not everyone has to do this, but it’s just the way I’m wired and if I don’t make a concerted effort to find the opportunity, I’ll find the problems.
I’ve also learned to test the idea before spending too much time building the product or service. It’s too easy to jump right into the work without checking to see that there is a market. It’s easier to find things to sell to hungry buyers than to find someone to buy your great new product.
3 trends that excite you.
- It has never been easier to start your own business. The tools are constantly improving and reducing the need for expensive support.
- Customer service sucks. Really, it is at an all-time low. This is an opportunity for anyone willing to go the extra mile for their customers.
- Energy costs are rising. Companies need my help to cut their energy spending.
What is the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
I won’t mention the company, but I took a branch manager job for a big company. I was young and inexperienced or I would have noticed 2 warning signs:
- None of the employees wanted to be the manager.
- The branch had gone through 3 managers in 2 years.
The branch had major personnel problems but the regional manager wouldn’t let me “fix” (i.e., fire) the problems. He also would swoop in and undermine me left and right. Six long months later I was no longer in that job. Six months later my replacement was also fired, making 5 managers in 3 years.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
Listen to the experts and follow a simple business plan. Most of the time life is simple, and we get in trouble when we complicate things.
I’d also outsource more things. Just because I can do something doesn’t mean that it’s the best use of my time.
What is the one thing you did/do as an entrepreneur that you would do over and over again and recommend everybody else do?
Have faith in my ability and keep in mind that just because my competition is larger doesn’t mean they are better.
Also, many companies love to say “it isn’t in our contract.” We have had success by doing more than the contract requires. Heck, our first customer quadrupled our order because we went above and beyond the call of duty every step of the way.
Tell us a secret…
I don’t have a poker face. Really, I get crushed at poker! Then again, I’ve found this to be an advantage in business. I try to be 100% transparent with my customers and what makes me a terrible poker player makes it easy to build trust.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Wow, I can think of dozens of books that I would recommend. If I could only pick one, I’d chose Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. This is hands down the gold standard for personal development. It helps you make improvements inside yourself that lead to prosperity. Most people do the opposite: ignoring the internal and working on quick fixes.
If you weren’t working on energy consulting, what would you be doing?
I’d probably still be consulting. I’m basically wired to be a problem solver. God put me on earth to fix things!
Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?
No one. I think Twitter is a huge waste of time.
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.